THC edibles may look like candy to kids - Albuquerque Journal

THC edibles may look like candy to kids

Susan Smolinske, director of the New Mexico Poison and Drug Information Center, warns that kids may mistake cannabis edibles with ordinary candy. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

A cannabis sucker looks like any other tasty lollipop to a kid.

That can be especially dangerous for a child 5 or younger, particularly if the sucker contains 50 milligrams of THC, the psychoactive chemical in cannabis.

“You can’t teach them to not eat candy – it’s not possible at that age,” said Susan Smolinske, director of the New Mexico Poison and Drug Information Center at the University of New Mexico. “It’s up to the parent to keep things safe for the little ones.”

Health officials decided to make their concerns public ahead of the Halloween weekend in response to a rash of cannabis exposures over the past two weeks.

A 2-year-old New Mexico boy was hospitalized Friday after eating part of a chocolate bar containing THC, said Smolinske, a professor at the University of New Mexico School of Pharmacy.

The boy was one of 11 New Mexicans – including eight children – with reported cannabis exposures from Oct. 17 through Friday, she said. All those cases resulted from exposures to edible products.

“I’m concerned with the weekend coming and it’s Halloween that we be a little more vigilant about keeping our medical or recreational cannabis out of reach of kids,” she said at a news conference Friday. “They are going to be reaching for all kinds of candy right now.”

Legalization unleashed the creative energies of cannabis manufacturers, who began marketing a wide variety of edible products.

A selection of edible products on display at the news conference showed that manufacturers often use chocolate and sugar to market their wares.

A bar of cannabis-infused chocolate – divided into 10 servings – contained a total of 100 milligrams of THC, or the equivalent of about 10 marijuana cigarettes, Smolinske estimated.

A pair of cannabis suckers didn’t look different from each other, but one contained 5 milligrams of THC and the other 50 milligrams.

Young children react to cannabis differently than adults, she said.

“The risk of exposure depends on the age of the child,” Smolinske said. “When you get to 5 and under, those are the ones who end up in a hospital or on a ventilator. In serious cases, some of those kids have seizures.”

Members of the NM Poison and Drug Information Center are warning parents about the dangers of children getting cannabis-infused candies during Halloween. The top bar is children-friendly Hershey’s chocolate, the bottom bar is 10, 10mg doses of THC, the psychedelic ingredient in marijuana. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Children exposed to cannabis can appear drowsy and lethargic.

“Kids get unsteady on their feet,” she said. “They just want to sit down or they stumble or fall. It’s just different for kids.”

Parents also need to be vigilant about goodies their kids bring home from school. At least one of the children with a recent cannabis exposure got the product at school.

Health officials listed some steps parents can take to protect children.

If you have kids in the house, make sure to keep cannabis products out of reach, and out of sight.

“If they can see it, they will try to reach it,” said Jacqueline Kakos, a health educator at the New Mexico Poison and Drug Information Center.

A good measure is to keep edibles in a lockbox or a locking bag, she said.

Keep edibles in the original packaging, which by law bears labels explaining the contents and dosage, Kakos said. Once out of the package, edibles may be indistinguishable from ordinary candy and gummies.

Also, talk with kids about cannabis products in the house, as you would with prescription drugs, and warn kids to stay away.

If a child is exposed to cannabis, but is not showing symptoms, visit the poison center’s website at webpoisoncontrol.org for advice.

If a child has clearly consumed cannabis, call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222.

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